A girls’ team representing Northern Ireland will be among six sides creating history at this year’s SuperCupNI tournament.
For the first time the organisers of the international youth football tournament - it was established in 1983 as the Milk Cup - are running a girls-only competition within the overall tournament.
Victor Leonard, chairman of the organising committee, explained: “While we have had girls’ challenge games in previous years, this year sees the first girls’ section, which will be for under-16 teams.
“We had planned for this tournament to happen in 2020 but as a result of the pandemic this wasn’t possible, however we are delighted to be able to stage the girls’ competition this year.”
Mossley Park in Newtownabbey, Antrim’s Allen Park and Ballyclare’s Dixon Park will host the various matches in the girls’ competition.
The teams taking part along with Northern Ireland are Republic of Ireland, Northeast Rush (USA), Surf Select (USA/Canada), Ottawa City (Canada) and Rangers.
Although the overall tournament is being sponsored by STATSports, the girls’ competition has its own sponsor, broadband company Fibrus.
The girls’ teams will initially play three matches within a six-team group. On the basis of points gained the top two teams in the table will play for the Fibrus SCNI Cup, with the next two competing for the Fibrus SCNI Globe and the bottom two competing for the Fibrus SCNI Vase.
Northern Ireland’s first game will see them take on Northeast Rush on Monday (25 July) at Mossley Park, with a 1.30pm start.
Game two is next Tuesday against the Republic, again at Mossley Park (1.30pm), while their third and final game in the group is on Wednesday at the same venue with Surf Select providing the opposition. And it’s another 1.30pm start.
The various finals in the girls’ section are due to be played next Friday. The Fibrus SCNI Cup final is set to be staged at Dixon Park in Ballyclare (2pm) with the Globe decider at Mossley Park (also at 2pm). The Vase final will also be played at Mossley Park that day (11.30am).
The 18-strong Northern Ireland squad taking part in SuperCupNI is a mix of girls who competed at U17 level in Euro qualifiers and at a U16 development tournament in Israel earlier this year as well as U15 players who competed in the annual Bob Docherty Cup international tournament back in April.
Noel Mitchell, the team’s head coach, said: “The SuperCupNI matches will be a good test for the younger girls as we monitor their progress. These matches will help them with their continuous learning and football development.”
This year’s SuperCupNI will run from 24 to 29 July, with the traditional parade and opening ceremony at Coleraine Showgrounds kicking off proceedings this Sunday (7pm).
As well as the girls’ section, boys’ teams from around the world are due to compete at U13, U14, U16 and U18 level - at 17 venues across the council areas of Causeway Coast and Glens, Mid and East Antrim and Antrim and Newtownabbey. For further information visit supercupni.com.
Northern Ireland U16 girls’ squad for SuperCupNI:
Goalkeepers – Ellie Scott (Lisburn Rangers Ladies), Abbie Smith (Crusaders).
Defenders – Abi Sweetlove, Sofie Keenan and Ellen Hampton (all Linfield Ladies), Morgan Hanna (Larne Ladies), Niamh O’Donnell (Mid Ulster Ladies).
Midfielders – Aimee Kerr (Ballyclare Comrades Ladies), Mia Moore (Linfield Ladies), Faye Loughran (Lisburn Rangers Ladies), Darcie McNeill (Crusaders Strikers).
Forwards – Sophie Gargan, Maureen Quinn, Sophie McKnight and Rhianna Breen (all Linfield Ladies), Kascie Weir (Antrim Rovers Ladies), Rachel McIntyre (Glentoran Women), Gracie Conway (Ballyclare Comrades Ladies).